I’ve had a sneak preview of what's set to become London’s “top” tourist attraction – the viewing gallery of the Shard, at just over 310 m the tallest building in western Europe. (Looking at this photo taken last month from Parliament Hill in north London I can hardly believe I have now been right up to the pinnacle.)
Although still a construction site, as you can see, the Shard dominates the capital's skyline, towering over London Bridge station on the south bank of the Thames, its 11,000 glass panels soaring up to reflect sky, clouds and sometimes sun.
When we arrived, workmen were fitting the flooring in the huge entrance hall, but round the corner, lifts were waiting to whisk us up to the 68th floor in a little over a minute. My ears had barely popped before we were in the gallery, looking out over the capital.
That's the moment it hits you: the only other way to get such a view would be from the air.
The gallery itself is the height of three storeys, the floor to ceiling windows giving a stunning 360’ view. On a clear day you could see up to 40 miles across London. On a November afternoon the view was slightly more limited, but familiar landmarks were clearly visible – the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and Canary Wharf to the east (above), St Paul’s, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and the Wembley arch to the west, while snaking through the panorama like a ribbon, the Thames, its barges and river boats like miniature toys (below).